Best Stock Trading Platforms (Canada)
If you’re on this page, you’ve probably realized that using your local TD or RBC brokerage account isn’t the best option. High fees and and a terrible interface for active stock trading/buying.
Enter the online broker.
Online brokers have exploded in popularity over the last few years with good reason – they are way cheaper, faster, more secure and have a nice pretty UX. 🙌
My name is Gary and while this blog is dedicated to learning how build online businesses I’ve done quite a lot of research about different investing tools (learn more on my small business tools page).
I’ve tried everything from the latest and hottest robo advisors to crowdsourced art investing. It’s a bit unfortunate that Canadians don’t have as many digital only banks like our US cousins. Less competition also means less deals for us investment savvy Canucks.
In this review I’m going to break down the top trading platforms and categorize them by fees, services and other related services.
🇨🇦 Canadian Stock Platform Guide 🇨🇦
The rapid rise of online share trading platforms, especially in the past decade, has made it much easier and convenient for Canadians to buy shares. However, because of the multitude of features offered, it has also necessitated the need to highlight areas of distinction among them.
Without a buying guide, you cannot definitively know which combination of features in an online broker are compatible with the type of trading you are engaged in, along with the limitations of each.
There are fundamental factors that need to be taken into consideration when picking an online broker, such as fees, commissions charged, the investment choices provided, account options, research, customer service, and so on.
Online trading is a prime attraction because it is both provides both a high-risk and high-reward proposition, which appeals to the temperament of most day traders.
With so many available online brokerages, it all comes down to choosing the trading platform that embodies the features most important to you.
These are some of the factors considered and approached a trader should utilize to choose the right platform.
- Comparing selections ✅ by focusing on their respective features, tools, and assets to see how these on each platform meets your needs.
- Compare commission ✅ fees especially if you’re trading frequently and in large volumes. Check whether the broker charges for extra for orders and investment products that are specialized. Consider also whether high-value trades are being charged as a percentage of the total trade value, rather than a fixed fee amount.
- What research, advice, and educational ✅ resources are made available by the platform? How does the research tools offered like market news, analysis and updates compare with others. This is key especially if you’re a novice and/or a self-directed investor.
- Is the trading platform integrated with banking services? ✅ Some brokerage services make it possible to transfer money from trading account to other banking accounts, even savings. Some take the further step of providing debit cards with your accounts.
- Is it well integrated with extant technology to enable you maximize your efforts, like integration with bank accounts, provision of mobile devices, apps, and other technology.
Trading Differences Between Canada and the United States
Due to the proximity of both countries, relaxed trade barriers, including close cultural and political ties, trading stocks online in Canada is similar in many ways to trading as a US resident doing so from the United States.
However, there are several important trading considerations that persist in Canada, but aren’t a factor in the United States. As a Canadians investors, you need to be aware of these differences.
Order Types and Operations: ✅ Various order types are standard across the industry, like market orders, limit hours, and stop orders. However, what is available in terms of trading stocks varies between Canada and the US market. Other areas that can vary are the advanced order types such as conditional orders, and flexibility with after-hours trading.
Mobile apps: ✅ Mobile app adoption is almost total in the US market. In Canada, however, not every broker has a mobile app, and even when they do, the quality can differ dramatically in terms of the features offered.
Banking services: ✅ In the US, banks offering online trading services (such as Merrill Edge through Bank of America) tend to provide a seamless client experience. They strive to provide a consistent login interface between the bank and its brokerage arm, making switching between these platforms easier. This also makes other tasks like moving money between these accounts more flexible. Therefore, US residents have come to expect a more integrated, holistic experience with similar core functionality.
Summary of Best Stock Trading Platforms in Canada
|Online Broker||Best For||Mobile App||Intl. Trading||Brokerage Costs||Annual/Account Fees||Our Bottom Line|
|Questrade||Best Overall||Yes||Yes||$0.01 per share for stock (minimum of $4.95 to max. $9.95). Mutual funds are $9.95 per trade.||None||Absence of fees and low commissions enables your money to work harder for you|
|Interactive Brokers||Best International Online Broker||Yes||Yes||For stocks and EFT, $0.005 per share with $1 minimum and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available||None||Great choice for active traders due to a large selection of tradable securities and per-share pricing.|
|CIBC Investor’s Edge||Best Transparent Fees||Yes||No||$6.95, $5.95 (student), $4.95 (active trader)||Yes||Only available to Canadan residents, but student friendly with ability to integrate banking and brokerage services|
|TD Direct Investing||Best Diverse Trading Tools||Yes||Mainly limited to North America||$9.99||Maintenance fee of $25 per quarter if account is less than $15,000||It provides strong market information, but with a $7 commission, it is too expensive for active traders|
|Qtrade Investor||Best For Research||Yes||Yes||$8.75||None||One of the best discount brokerages in Canada with outstanding research tools, and great for mutual funds.|
1. Best Overall — Questrade
Quick Info Snapshot
To underscore the positive impact of Questrade, Canadians regard this online broker founded in 1999 as not only the best for trading in the Canadian stock market, but also in the US as well.
For Canadians who have borne the short end of the stick when it comes to low-cost trading for several years, especially compared to the States, Questrade pricing and reach is a refreshing change. With no annual fees, no matter the account size you are carrying, Questrade effectively allows you to build an ETF-based portfolio for $0.
Questrade’s client experience is very good, in fact almost seamless. It provides a barebones fee structure that is coupled with an excellent trading platform consisting of numerous tools to assist traders.
As Canada’s largest independent online brokerage, it has over $9 billion in assets under administration at the time of this writing, allowing Canadians a nice alternative to trading and investing with only the big banks.
Versatility and Transparent Pricing
Questrade’s trading platform is versatile, allowing an investor to build a diversified portfolio of bonds, forex, stocks, CFDs, mutuals funds, ETFs. It also allows access to IPOs, international equities, even precious metals and guaranteed investment certificate (GICs).
Its mantra of enabling you keep more of your money is reflected in its structure of letting clients save more on fees so that they can invest more for themselves. With its competitive commision of low fees, Questrade has positioned itself as the nation’s low-cost leader, offering no-fee ETF trades to Canadians.
Other freebies offered in the Questrade’s bonanza include not having to pay any annual RRSP or TFSA account fees, lack of opening or closing fees, and the freedom to transfer ones account.
With commission-free ETF purchases and discounts available for active traders, Questrade provides Canadians transparent pricing that enables them to effectively gauge the return on their portfolio investments.
Questrade allows its clients to trade through three trading platforms, including forex and CFD platform. It includes market data packages to help clients make informed decisions, with the basic and enhanced options providing real-time and live-streaming data respectively. Questrade also provides robust options for both international and regional transactions.
Questrade offers clients two options to invest, each accompanied with lower fees: The largely do-it-yourself Self-Directed Investing, and the Questwealth Portfolios. The latter enables you create a pre-built portfolio, while the former leaves you to your own devices with self-directed account, although you get to save on fees.
Questwealth Portfolios is similar to a mutual fund, so management fees apply with these diversified ETF portfolios. However, because this portfolio is intelligently designed by experts, it can help you achieve your financial goals faster, especially against the backdrop of its lower fees (0.25% or 0.20% after $100,000).
Questrade’s lower fees are nothing to sneeze at, especially as they have the potential to compound and eventually leave you up to 30% wealthier than you would have otherwise become without the benefit of the Questwealth Portfolios.
Questrade is web-based but also provides the option of a mobile app. Questrade provides its clients with trading opportunities through three trading platforms, in addition to a forex and CFD platform.
However, one of the things disliked about Questrade is the fact that it charges a quarterly inactivity fee of $24.95 when the balance on an account falls below $5,000 and if no trades are made.
Questrade provides versatility by supporting a variety of account types, ranging from the traditional margin kind of accounts, up to retirement accounts, and even a good dose of some managed accounts.
A full list of these accounts include the following: Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA); Individual, Joint, or Organization Margin Accounts; Life Income Funds (LIF); Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP); Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP); Registered Retirement Income Funds (RIF); Locked-in Retirement Accounts (LIRA); and fully Managed Accounts.
Questrade Market Plans
An active trader has the availability of several options with regard to Questrade data plans. Being an active trader, you automatically have access to the Basic plan, but by paying an additional monthly fee, you can gain access to even more data add-ons.
The market data plans are Basic (Free with all accounts, provides real-time market data), Enhanced ($19.95/month CAD, includes live streaming data), while the package Advanced goes at $89.95/month. Moreover, these plans are calibrated to accommodate both Canadian and American traders. For instance, the Advanced plan comes with both a US and Canadian Data Package Plans.
Basic is ideal for new and novice traders. Apart from providing a one-click real-time data, it comes with both Canadian level 1 snap quotes and U.S. level 1 snap quotes; both of which are free.
Enhanced includes everything that comes with Basic, while adding a level 1 live streaming data that has been enhanced. Other provisions are amenities to help facilitating day trading speculation such as live streaming for the Intraday Trader.
Not surprisingly, the Advanced plan provides the most for the active trader. Available are advanced level 1 and level 2, which incorporate live streaming data for Canadians, along with U.S. level 1 live streaming data, and the provision of individual data add-ons.
Key Features and Takeaways
- No fees charged on ETF trades
- Many ETFs on its platform are free to buy
- No annual fees
- Absolutely no opening or closing fees
- Low trading fees
- Provides multiple trading platforms
- Excellent support and customer service provided to customers
- Managed portfolios such as Questwealth with fees ranging between 0.17% to 0.25% are much lower than what many mutual funds charge
- Solid trust and reputation in Canada
2. Best International Online Broker — Interactive Brokers
Quick Info Snapshot
Although Interactive Brokers (IB) isn’t a Canada based-company, its US based-trading suite comes with features that Canadians love. It offers full access to major markets around the world, and has been rated as a Top Online Broker for nine consecutive years by Barron’s.
Although Questrade is still top-of-the-mountain, Interactive Brokers isn’t far behind and Canadians may find that IB is an interesting – and tempting alternative because it poses as a serious competitor by providing complete access to major global markets.
The Canadian arm of this American discount brokerage firm is Interactive Brokers Canada. Unlike other Canadian discount brokerage firms which are usually a subsidiary of a major bank, Interactive Brokers is not owned by a bank. However, it is no slouch: by virtue of its volume of daily average revenue trades alone, Interactive Brokers is the largest electronic brokerage firm based in the US.
Its ethos is more geared and inclined towards the active traders than the long-term investors. As an active trader for example, Interactive Brokers’ pricing structure certainly helps to keep your trading costs in check.
Unfortunately, if you are a novice and less active investor, you should probably look elsewhere because of the lack of support IB’s platform provides. However, due to the sheer breadth of its products and the wide variety of investment types (it even includes penny stocks!), if you are an experienced, frequent trader looking for low commissions, then Interactive Brokers is likely a great choice for you.
Feature Rich Platform
Interactive Brokers provides several different trading platforms, such as its Traders Workstation (TWS) which operate as a desktop. Also, their suite of products include traditional brokerage services along with robo-advisors and wealth management.
TWS is feature-rich, allowing users to maintain watchlists, monitor trades in real time, and receive alerts. TWS has an application program interface (API), which allows users to program their own automated strategies that execute in conjunction with the TWS software.
Although Traders Workstation is IB’s flagship platform, it still allows you to log into the web-based Client Portal to access a client-only forum, use the Market Overview tool, perform portfolio analysis, and other trading amenities.
However, with Interactive Brokers you need to watch out, on a monthly basis, on the typical trading volume and order size of your transactions. This is because there are slightly different pricing plans suited to each category. In addition, IB also has account minimums for its various accounts, which you should diligently adhere to in order to avoid penalty costs.
Questrade and IB are closely matched, so a decision between the two brokers will likely come down to a tradeoff between ease of use and costs. However, domestic brokers like Questrade are better positioned to help Canadians comply with local tax laws and regulations, including managing currency conversions.
Interactive Brokers has been recognized for its excellence in 2019 by organizations that focus on investing and finance education such as Investopedia. Its numerous awards have been wide-ranging and diverse, underscoring its versatility.
Some of these include the following: Best Overall Online Brokers, Best for Options Trading, Best for Low Costs, Best for Penny Stocks, Best for Day Trading, and Best for International Trading.
Key Features and Takeaways
- Best for advanced traders, those that engage in high-volume, options, forex, and penny stock traders.
- Wide breadth of choice as Interactive Brokers’ clients have the option to trade in as many as 120 markets in 31 countries, using 23 currencies.
- It allows commission-free trading on the firm’s Client Portal through Interactive Brokers’ IBKR Lite platform.
- Margin rates are one of the lowest in the industry, including low fees for high-volume traders.
- However, it has a high minimum for opening an account, and too many fees for active traders
3. Best Transparent Fees — CIBC Investor’s Edge
Quick Info Snapshot
The advantage of a bank-owned brokerage is evident with CIBC Investor’s Edge, and its ability to offer its clients the freedom to manage and access products from its banking arm. This is one of the things that makes it one of the best Canadian brokerages.
Operated by CIBC Investor Services Inc., which is a subsidiary of CIBC (the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce), CIBC Investor’s Edge is an online discount brokerage designed for do-it-yourself investors.
The Investor’s Edge brokerage arm provides Canadians access to both U.S. and Canadian stock and options markets, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), bonds and mutual funds at low commission rates. If you don’t feel wowed by these, then consider the fact there are no account-opening fees and no minimum account size.
It provides ease and flexibility if you want to switch from your previous broker, refunded up to $135 in imposed transfer-out fees for assets that are valued at $25,000 or more. Perhaps to balance the equation, Investor’s Edge also penalizes you for trying to leave, with a $135 transfer-out fee if you want to transfer your accounts to another brokerage firm.
Social responsibility is also mixed with profits at CIBC Investor’s Edge. The Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), a vital tool used by parents to fund their kids’s postsecondary education, was eliminated. In addition, students are also allowed to benefit with CIBC’s special student-friendly commission rates.
Trading Central: CIBC Investor’s Edge Award Research and Analytics Tool
The addition of its student-friendly commission priced at a $5.95 flat rate per trade, also boosted Investor’s Edge’s enhancements designed to help DIY investors. Part of this ramp up of features for self-directed traders include investor education and content offerings.
CIBC Investor’s Edge is custom-tailored for the active trader and self-directed investors who wants to take advantage of the low commissions charged by this broker. Because the Investor’s Edge is part of CIBC bank, traders can integrate their other financial accounts with their brokerage account seamlessly by utilizing a CIBC Smart Account.
The broker provides traders with a trifecta of desktop, web, and mobile trading platforms, in addition to access to 3rd-party research resources that are beneficial to a self-directed investor or trader.
The user-interface of its apps, especially the website is minimal, clean, and simple; although some might accuse it of being out-of-date. Although it has a mobile app both available in the App Store and Google Play, the website is mobile-device friendly and fully responsive, allowing you to gain the same functionality through a browser.
CIBC Investor’s Edge also allows you to make trades for as little as $6.95 which, in addition to being quite reasonable for a Canadian online discount brokerage, compares favorably with other brokerages in the United States. This flat commission fee presently makes CIBC Investor’s Edge among the cheapest Canadian bank-owned brokerages.
For those deemed active traders (who execute at least 150 trades each quarter) – their commission is further dropped to $4.95 per trade. Perhaps due to its close bank affiliation, Investor’s Edge incorporates the concept of household (joint / trading authority) accounts. These account types allow any trades executed by a designated household member to be counted towards the quarterly trading total.
Key Features and Takeaways
- Waived fees on registered education savings plans (RESPs)
- Provides the ability to integrate bank and brokerage accounts.
- No provision of forex trading
- Provides student friendly commissions
4. Best Diverse Trading Tools — TD Direct Investing
Quick Info Snapshot
This is the one of the most expensive brokers, but it strives to make up for it with a broad and impressive array of trading tools and research, courtesy of its WebBroker and Advanced Dashboard platforms.
TD Direct Investing is part of TD Ameritrade, which is a major U.S. investment services provider and financial institution. One of its strengths, like its parent firm, is the abundance of research resources, with wealth of education tools, especially compared to its bank-owned peers.
Being a bank-owned online brokerage, it offers clients the ability to manage multiple accounts and products through the TD online platform. Although it is web-centric, it also offers a desktop platform for active traders as well as longer term investors.
TD Direct Investing grants traders access to cutting-edge charting and trading tools. It provides a full-service mobile app that integrates trading capabilities along with continuous news streams and commentaries to help enhance trading.
It has a number of customer service outlets, and if you’re Canadian, you can even schedule an appointment at your local TD Direct branch for in-person assistance.
Key Features and Takeaways
- Quite expensive but with good educational and research tools
- Filled with cutting-edge tools and technology to help experience traders
- One of best self direct investing applications
- Nice and easy to use
5. Best For Research — Qtrade Investor
Quick Info Snapshot
Qtrade Investor is a wholly Canadian online brokerage with award-winning technology, combined with independent research tools that provides users with a dynamic trading experience.
It is trustworthy, and its reputation for safety is well-earned. It has a long track record (founded in 2000), provides a high-level of investor protection and is regulated by a top-tier regulator (the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC)).
While Questrade beats out Qtrade by virtue of its superior trading platform, Qtrade boasts above-average education tools. It provides a much more robust stock research center and portfolio analysis tools. Moreover, Qtrade, brings a welcoming effortlessness in opening an account.
Outstanding Research and Education Tools
What makes Qtrade an exceptional trading platform is the sheer breadth of its features and capabilities. It assists investors with asset allocation when they are building a customized portfolio, provides in-depth technical research and streaming quotes in real-time. It even provides help for retirement planning.
Its partnership with Morningstar has boosted its ability to obtain outstanding research on mutuals funds, while giving its clients a fundamental analysis breakdown on the finances and prospects of public companies.
Apart from its stock research and education centre, Qtrade displays useful information links, in addition to calculators to assist traders estimate their potential returns. Qtrade is also packaged with a screener to help traders locate the stocks they need, including ETFs, expenses for funds, and mutual funds that meet certain specified criteria (example P/E ratio, and dividend yield – when applicable).
Qtrade is nimble and quick, and preemptive enough to provide traders with a watch list for potential investments, then alerting them when important changes or news occur to the investments they have indicated interest in.
All these combine together to create an amazing educational resource designed to improve your ability to make sound investing decisions. Although it is homegrown, its reach extends beyond Canada to the United States and the fees it charges are fairly competitive when compared to other Canadian brokers.
One of Qtrade’s drawbacks is that it lacks either debit/credit card or electronic wallet integration, making it difficult to operate deposit and withdrawal transactions.
Key Features and Takeaways
- Excellent for mutual fund purchases.
- Top-notch customer service.
- Great education and research tools
Different Types of Trading
Fundamental trading: In fundamental trading, the company or individual involved seeks to make trades based on fundamental analysis. Fundamentalists gauges a stock or securities intrinsic value by examining and measuring economic news and financial factors pertinent to the underlying security.
Some of the factors taken into consideration are a company’s restructuring and reorganization, actual or anticipated earnings reports, corporate events, stock splits, mergers and acquisitions. All these can have an impact on a stock’s value that is significant.
Swing trading: Swing trades are also fundamental traders. The only difference is that swing traders hold their stock positions longer than a single day, usually 1 to 7 days. Therefore, swing traders specialize in recognizing and capturing short-term trends, utilizing technical acumen to find stocks that exhibit short-term price momentum.
Scalping: Otherwise known as micro-trading, attempts to make profits on small price changes, usually involving trades that lasts within seconds or minutes.
Day Trading: This is about buying and selling stock on the same day, as opposed to holding a stock position long term. Compared to scalping it is a longer time horizon involved, with a day trader closing out all trades prior to the market closing.
Technical trading: As the name suggests, technical trading focus on the quantitative and applied aspects of trading, utilizing graphs and charts to analyze stock, along with index graphs. Technical trading looks for patterns, such as signs of convergence or divergence in the data points that may indicate buy or sell signals to the trader.
Momentum trading: In this type of trading, traders ride the wave of momentum of stock, seeking stock movement that may indicate they are significantly moving in a particular direction with high volume. It is akin to jumping-on-the-bandwagon of a stock that is “breaking out” in order to capture the gains of its price momentum.
Canadian Stock Trading Laws
This categorization is moreso vital given that the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is described as the 9th largest exchange in the world, the third-largest stock exchange in North America in terms of capitalization. It follows right behind the heels of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq. In assets alone, TSX boasts a market capitalization in the neighbourhood of $2.3051 trillion.
Furthermore, due to proximity and friendly ties, Canadians have seamless accessibility to trading securities on the NASDAQ and NYSE exchanges in the United States. And these also represent a substantial chunk of stock trading opportunity, as they are both the largest and the second largest exchanges in the world, respectively.
While a brokerage market of this combined size brings its own advantages such as economies-of-scale and the abundance of choice, it also carries certain liabilities that traders in a smaller markets aren’t burdened with.
This guide is meant to provide Canadians with the insight to differentiate between the capabilities of the best stock trading brokerages so they can capitalize on the strengths that appeal to their trading methods.
Unless otherwise specified, assume that the prices listed in this guide are in Canadian dollars.
Different governing bodies, different mandates
Canada lacks a single, unified body regulating stock trading, so we looked at the two most dominant trading exchanges to take our cue regarding its prevailing trading laws. Since the center of gravity of trading activities in Canada are the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE), these were the subjects of our focus.
Canada has two public venture capital exchanges namely, the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) and the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE). The Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) has grown to become the largest in Canada.
For the uninitiated, assuming Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE or TSX) is akin to Canada’s version of the New York Stock Exchange, then the TSX Venture Exchange (TSX-V) is equivalent to the NASDAQ Small Cap or OTCBB exchanges. In terms of market visibility, TSXV is king although CSE is better in terms of cost, ease, and efficiency.
We’ll be looking at Canadian stock trading laws through the regulation of these primary trading bodies.
Note: Almost everything presented below is summarized and abridge due to time and space constraints. Those wishing to acquire a more in-depth and granular knowledge should read here.
Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE)
The CSE’s reporting requirements are more simplified, with the added advantage of reducing barriers to listing.
Approval as a Dealer
- The Exchange may, in its wisdom follow these guidelines in approving a dealer:
- Have the applicant approved as a dealer unconditionally;
- Refuse to approve the application especially after the Exchange has considered the following relevant factors, but not limited to these:
- the dealer has been deemed not qualified by reason of integrity, solvency, training or experience, or
- The Exchange deems that such an approval is otherwise not in the public interest.
Rights of the applicant
- If the Exchange proposes to approve or to refuse a dealer subject to its terms and conditions, the applicant shall be:
- Informed through a statement grounds upon which the Exchange proposes to approve or reject the applicant subject to its terms and conditions.
- Entitled to an appeal of the decision reached by the Exchange.
Access to the trading system
- A dealer mustn’t allow or permit anyone access to the trading system unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
- The person is an approved trader who is in good standing on the Toronto Stock Exchange or the TSX Venture Exchange.
- In making use of the trading system, the dealer has expressly agreed to accept all liability emanating from using the system.
The canadian trader is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a vast domestic and North American market. But for this advantage to be translated into a winning strategy, a trader must have a clear-eyed understanding of the tools and features necessary to succeed in this market.
This guide provides a summary of the tradeoffs and competitive advantages that the online brokerages operating in this region offer, whether to the novice, active, or self-directed traders.